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which Heidi Swanson cookbook? advice please*

My sister is a health nut, and is always looking for snazzy healthy meal ideas. She does not enjoy cooking, but will do so in order to make healthy food. This holiday season I am giving her a cookbook along with a coupon for a number of homecooked meals (that I will cook for her, using recipes in the book!).

I was thinking of Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking or her Cook 1.0. Anyone have either who could elaborate on experience with the book? Reviews seem promising, and my sis is quite experimental with flavors and dishes, enjoying quinoa, bulgur, etc. She is always scouting out "new" (to her/us) fruits from the market, but often they sit in her kitchen because she has no idea what to do with these other than smoothies. She does not eat red meat. She does not like to use oil or any fat (while I would happily toss bacon fat here, there, everywhere) in the dishes she prepares or eats. She loves food, enjoys desserts, and will happily slurp up anything "healthy" that I make her.

I will probably be cooking the dishes for her, as that is the idea of the gift, and a good one given that I cannot afford a big lavish stack of packages this year. :)

Cook 1.0: A Fresh Approach to the Vegetarian Kitchen

Super Natural Cooking: Five Ways to Incorporate Whole and Natural Ingredients into Your Cooking (this one is also up for COTM in January -- so more fun for me?!

Heidi Swanson's blog:

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  1. I don't own either cookbook, but have read that of the two, SNC is better. I checked it out from the library and never got around to making but one recipe, the espresso banana bread. Honestly, I was underwhelmed and have a better recipe for banana bread, and about as healthy as hers. That's not fair, basing my opinion on one recipe, I know, but I'm being honest.

    I'd give someone Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison above those two, but that may not be the recommendation you're wanting.

    2 Replies
    1. re: amyzan

      I own Veg Cooking for Everyone and what a fantastic book! Hmmm... doesn't sound like anyone is bowled over by Swanson so far.

      1. re: amyzan

        I've made the espresso banana nut muffins and gotta say that they smelled incredible while baking but didn't wow me on the flavor scale. They were fairly heavy and didn't taste as good as other "healthy" muffins/quicks breads I've made. I do like the idea of adding espresso to banana muffins/bread though.

        I still feel optimistic about other recipes in the book but haven't made much else thus far. I've been wanting to try one of the quinoa dishes as well as some soups. Even if this book doesn't get chosen for COM, I will try to cook more from it in Jan. to counterbalance holiday indulgences.

      2. I have Super Natural Cooking and I like it but don't love it. Still, the photography is quite inspiring, but the recipes can be hit or miss. I really like the healthy "power bars" but the Acai popsicles are merely okay. I liked the crusty beans recipe, but I agree with amayzan that Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is stellar and she does include funky health-foody ingredients. Not enough pictures, though! Heidi Swanson's book is not bad (I really do like it) and it does focus on the healthy, with some good information about interesting ingredients. It does have a California bias--I've never seen garlic scapes at ANY farmer's market, but I'm in Indiana, not California. So much for her garlic scape soup.

        5 Replies
        1. re: nofunlatte

          An aside about the garlic scapes. I hadn't seen them here in Minnesota until recently. Do you have homegrown garlic in your stores? I've read that a garlic seller here was cutting off the garlic scapes and throwing quantities of them away until realizing they had a use. So maybe they will show up or can be found. A summery thought.

          1. re: karykat

            I have garlic chive (jiaocai in Mandarin) growing in my garden as a perennial. The original plants are over 30 years old. The plants are very hardy and have survived some real cold winters. They were given to me by a Chinese coworker. The scapes must be harvested before the floral heads develop because the scapes are very tough at maturity.

            1. re: karykat

              Not in the stores, but I have seen the homegrown garlic at one of the farmer's market stands. I could ask the grower what she does with the scapes. Approximately what time of year should I look for them? Heidi Swanson's garlic scape soup does intrigue me!

              1. re: nofunlatte

                nofunlatte -- I think you should be looking for the scapes in late spring, early summer. Because that is kind of when I remember seeing them at our coop. The growers cut off the scapes so the plant puts its energy into the garlic bulb rather than flowering.

                1. re: karykat

                  Thank you! I'll be checking out my market as soon as it opens for the year.

          2. One of my favorite cookbooks is "How to Cook Without a Book" by Pam Anderson. It has variations on a theme for each basic recipe. It is not a strictly vegetarian cookbook, but it does have meatless chapters.

            1. Have you checked out taste book yet? There's a link for it on Heidi's site. It's almost like an iTunes for recipes and she has a set (mix,I guess) available...If I understand correctly, you can mix and match which of her recipes you want in your own book.

              1. I have SNC - which I bought because I love her site 101cookbooks.com so much and felt I owed her the price of the book! (1.0 did nothing for me at the bookstore.)

                Photos are great and the tone is great - it feels very fresh, so could inspire someone. I like that she goes for spice and flavor ideas from the Yucatan and SriLanka, along with a riff on mint Girl Scout cookies. There's a ton of info on what to do with the unfamiliar ingredients in your sister's pantry, and it's not rigid in terms of substitutions.

                I made the hedgehog potatoes, which are a cute novelty (slices of garlic inserted (and harissa smeared in) partially sliced potatoes to fan them out)
                I forget what else I've used it for, but I want to do more . . . I *think* I used her recipe for garlic scape soup, but that was back in June . . .

                SNC is currently a contender for Cookbook of the Month on this board. But it's probably going to lose to Wolfert (sigh)

                1. I have SNC and agree that the recipes are hit or miss. I find it very inspiring though and use it more for ideas than the actual recipes.

                  I also have Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and love that book! I use it quite a bit. I'm trying to decide if I should get the 10th ann. ed. that just came out as a back up for the day when my current copy finally falls to pieces!

                  I'd also like to add another book to the mix for your concideration, A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider. It isn't new but has some great ideas and also has chicken/fish/meat recipes in it. I know you said your sister doesn't eat red meat, but if she eats other animal proteins, this book has some good ideas. I got mine used which saved me quite a bit of money, so if you aren't opposed to used books as gifts, you shouldn't have a hard time finding a used copy.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: katwright

                    kat -- It looks excellent, and I found it in paperback on Amazon for less than $20. Excellent reviews, and I think the additional proteins will be better for my sis anyway. The reviews sound fantastic :) and thanks so much, because I was just starting to think, if not Swanson, then WHAT?!? :)

                    1. re: katwright

                      I think part of the idea of A New Way to Cook was coming up with lower fat recipes. But there is absolutely no sense of sacrifice and deprivation in the book.

                      1. re: karykat

                        Perfect! :) It seemed, from the reviews, like full-on-flavor recipes, cleverly avoiding the fat. I am trying to be supportive of my sis so she will eat (don't want her veering into that fasting mode, which she did several years ago and nearly vanished). She needs to eat with attention to nutrients, as she works out, cardio at the gym between an hour and a half and two hours a day, and also balances three jobs and takes courses for grad school. I know -- wow! Ummm, I'm the free spirit of the fam, cooking away, happily ... So I want to share my love of food and making it with her, so she will see that she can still say healthy and fit and eat well, and fit into her sexy jeans*
                        Incidentally -- I used to have minor gripes about weight (always felt like I wanted, maybe, to shed ten pounds) until I started cooking about 95% of what I eat. I gave up booze and soda, too... and drink seltzer like it's going out of style... but it's so freeing to really EAT whenever I want, not worrying/stressing/carb-counting. I didn't think I'd ever get to that point. I believe that so much of that is because I create healthy meals that really give my body what it needs. That includes World Peace cookies from time to time***
                        So, back to A New Way to Cook: Any specific recs? I could even whip up a few of the recipes when I'm there for Christmas-time, do a little tasting menu the 26th or 27th. :)

                        1. re: foxy fairy

                          I have that one, and am sorry I didn't think of it to recommend myself. There are only a few unnecessary (IMO) substitutions in her recipes, and they're few and far between. By and large, every recipe I've tried in this one has been good. I like that she covers basics as well. Her "revisionist mole" is particularly yummy. I use it on turkey, chicken, beans, in casseroles with whole grains and meat, lots of different applications, and not difficult for the yield of the recipe.

                          1. re: foxy fairy

                            I don't know if my recs will help at all because like you, I'd happily add bacon fat to just about anything! That being said, here are a few of the recipes I've enjoyed from A New Way to Cook:

                            White Beans and Mellowed Garlic with Rosemary Oil
                            Greek-Style Potatoes with Lemon and Thyme
                            Mature Greens with Bacon and Balsamic Vinegar
                            Chicken with Garlic, Thyme, and Olives
                            Pasta with Leeks, Pepper, and Aged Goat Cheese
                            Fennel Roasted Fish

                            I haven't tried any of the dessert recipes yet which is a surprise because that is my second weakness (after bacon, of course!)

                            By the way, I think it is a very thoughtful gift that you are giving your sister and hope she enjoys it as much as you do!